Rockford Fire Department Releases Video Hoping to Reshape Mental Health Stigmas

ROCKFORD - First responders are usually the first to arrive on the toughest of scenes, and sometimes the after effects of what they see never leave them.

Today we spoke with officials who are trying to battle the stigma attached to seeking help for the trauma they face on a daily basis, and a program that's available right here in the stateline for uniformed personnel.

"Everybody has that on the job. Everybody always has two or three calls that they're going to remember."

Rockford Fire Department Chief Derek Bergsten on the traumatic events that first responders encounter in the line of duty.

And although they all go home at the end of the day, he says sometimes, those experiences can have a lasting effect.

"We know that once you're hired on the Rockford Fire Department or any fire or police, that you are going to see things that are going to impact your life, that are going to be engrained in your memory for the rest of your life," said Chief Bergsten. "The big thing we really want to focus on now is how do you deal with that."

That's one reason the Rockford Fire Department has produced a new video.

It's an attempt to get firefighters to discuss traumatic stress they often hold inside.

One of the biggest challenges they face is removing the stigma of needing help.

Dan degryse, director of rosecrance florian program
"What we have a tendency to do is say we're okay, and we don't feel okay. But we don't show that because that's a sign of weakness."

Dan DeGryse has been in the mental health field for the last thirty years, and has been with the Chicago Fire Department for 28 years.

He is currently the director of the Florian Program at Rosecrance-one that is specifically tailored to attend to emergency personnel who understand where they're coming from.

"You can really just have a conversation. That's how treatment starts. It starts with a conversation," said DeGryse. "We have to make it okay and when I say we, I mean everyone in the fire service, and the police and the military to get checked."

Chief Bergsten saying it's important those struggling know they're not alone.

"You know, at the end of the day, everyone is a human being and we need to make sure that we provide the best support for those individuals."

Rosecrance will be holding it's second annual Florian Symposium September 21-22.

It's a 2-day training for first responders, military personnel, clinicians, and others where they will learn more about mental health, trauma, and peer support.


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